Formula 18 Class: Evolve or Die
Published on September 23rd, 2019
The success of one design racing rests largely on critical mass. There may be a lot of boats of a type, but if they are not in close proximity, convenient one design racing can’t occur. And if it isn’t convenient, it won’t thrive.
But what if different boat types, with similar characteristics, could come together and race on equal terms? The Formula 18 Class had that objective when the parameters were developed in 1993 to offer popular, exciting, safe, and fair racing in 18-foot catamarans.
The class’ further objective was to keep development under control, keeping it a non-foiler, and maintaining a good balance between cost and performance. By being open to any manufacturer, the competition keeps costs to sailors to a minimum… right?
While right in general, any class organization that has some degree of “openness” becomes open to efforts that try to build a better mousetrap, err, 18-foot catamaran. And once that happens, the effort to offer a level playing field tilts toward those spending money for the better boat.
This all came to mind with the pending launch of the newly developed Nacra F18 Evolution, which according to Nacra Sailing, hopes to improve on their previous boat – the Nacra F18 Infusion – to be the best all-around performing F18, over the full range of sailing conditions for every sailor.
Here’s the background on this new boat:
The design program of the Nacra F18 Evolution started at the 2018 F18 World Championship in Sarasota, USA. Morrelli & Melvin Naval Architects Ferdinand van West (2 time F18 World Champion) and Pete Melvin (Olympic sailor) teamed up to sail the Nacra F18 Infusion.
With Nacra Sailing owner and technical director Peter Vink’s coaching, the duo finished their first event in 6th place. Inspired by this experience, they brought back a wealth of data from the event which they applied directly to the drawing board.
This is how Nacra Sailing teamed up again with their long-time development partner Morrelli & Melvin to set its goals in this ambitious project. These parties have a long history together, having done many successful projects such as the Nacra F18 Infusion which was launched in 2006.
This relationship also includes the development of the Olympic Nacra 17 which has changed the face of sailing by becoming the first Olympic sailing class to introduce hydrofoiling.
The hydrodynamic characteristics of the Nacra F18 Evolution’s hull shape are completely revised and benefit from the latest design tools used by America’s Cup teams, analyzing the performance of dozens of hull shape iterations in Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) simulations.
Since their involvement in the last three America’s Cups, Morrelli & Melvin have invested in using NUMECA’s FINE/Marine CFD software for design optimization. Utilizing high performance computing resources and advanced performance prediction simulators to add fidelity to race model analysis.
Most notable, the Nacra F18 Evolution’s hull shape design, has an aggressively styled raked wave-piercing bow with a horizontal hull chine running back into the transom.
This elegant solution cleverly distributes the volume and contour curvatures desired for each dynamic condition and delivers a unique compromise for both sailing upwind and downwind at different speeds. The optimized foredeck in front of the main beam and embedded beams into the hull add extra sleekness to this design.
There was a careful focus on the platform configuration, which features an updated longitudinal beam position to optimize the hydrodynamic and aerodynamic balance between the sailplan and the appendages. This has been further enhanced by a new high aspect ratio rudder design, refining wetted area, and updates to the hydrofoil sectional shape to the latest developments.
Close collaboration with the aerodynamic sail design of Performance Sails has ensured an optimized sailplan which features the regatta proven deck sweeper mainsail and an optimized jib design tailored to the new mainsail.
The Nacra F18 Evolution will make its F18 Worlds debut at the 2020 Formula 18 World Championship in Formia, Italy, and is available for order with first deliveries starting in February 2020.